Our archives

Major Funders:
Greater Montana Foundation
Encouraging communications on issues, trends and values of importance to Montanans.
Rocky Mountain Front
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
The Rockies' Week in Review:

Mountain West News won't publish on Monday, Jan. 21.
Our next daily edition will publish Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Top stories from Jan. 14 thru Jan. 18

In News to track, New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said he'll try again to rework the General Mining Act of 1872, a law his father, Steward Udall, attempted to change when he was Interior secretary in the 1960s.

A new study done by Utah State University tracked what's become of the 134 million acres of school trust lands transferred by the federal government to states to benefit education, and found that there are just 45 million acres remaining across 20 states. The study finds that nearly all of the lands California and Nevada received have been sold, while New Mexico and Arizona rank first and second in largest trust land holdings, at 6.8 million and 8.1 million acres, respectively.

And in Montana, American Whitewater has put out the call for nominations of stretches of rivers within the Big Sky State for designation under the federal Wild and Scenic River program.

Western Perspective

Ecotourism could help save remaining swaths of America's virgin prairie

On the Bookshelf

Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction suggests some books to give and receive this holiday season

Dec. 6, 2012

Mountain West Voices

We invite readers to listen to Mountain West Voices, a radio program that profiles an individual or community in the Rocky Mountain West, introducing listeners to the compelling stories that are part of the human landscape of our region.

Yellowstone Public Radio will broadcast this week's edition of Mountain West Voices at 7 a.m. Sunday.

This week Mountain West Voices' broadcast features Clay Scott's visit with Paul Taylor: an itinerant storyteller, teacher and didgeridoo player from Laramie, Wyo., via Adelaide, South Australia.

If you miss the broadcast Sunday morning on Yellowstone Public Radio, you can always listen online via the Mountain West Voices website.

News to Track

American Whitewater seeks wild, scenic nominations for Montana rivers
Montana hasn't had a stretch of river within its borders designated as a federal Wild and Scenic river since 1976, and American Whitewater is launching a campaign to get Montanans to nominate their favorite stretch of river for such a designation.
Missoulian; 1/16/2013

U.S. senator to again try to update General Mining Law of 1872
New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, whose father, Stewart Udall, tried to update the General Mining Law of 1872 when he was Interior Secretary in the 1960s, said he will work with Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, to try to find agreement on changes to the mining law.; 1/16/2013

Utah university questions states' use of lands for education
Utah State University's report "A Magnificent Endowment: America's School Trust Lands," tracks how states used the 134 million acres of land granted to them by the federal government to benefit education, which found that nearly 75 percent of those lands are no longer in states' hands, with New Mexico and Arizona retaining the largest share of the lands allocated them, while California and Nevada have sold off nearly all of their acres of school-trust lands.
Salt Lake Tribune; 1/17/2013


Study finds 'signature emissions' from Colorado oil, gas operations
Scientists at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado published results of their 2011 study that found emissions oil and gas operations contributed half the pollutants that formed ozone in Erie.
Boulder Daily Camera; 1/17/2013

Montana event provides details of life in the oil boom
At the "Boom or Bust: Social Impacts of Oil and Gas Development" event in Great Falls on Monday, representatives of communities that are dealing with the energy boom, shared their stories about how that boom has changed their communities.
Great Falls Tribune; 1/15/2013

Texas billionaires add Idaho ranch to their Rocky Mountain West holdings
Farris and Dan Wilks, who have been buying up ranches in Montana and other western states, have purchased a second ranch in Idaho County, making the billionaire brothers from Texas the second-largest landowners in the Idaho county.

Billings Gazette (AP); 1/14/2013


Crow Tribe, Cloud Peak reach deal on development of Montana coal
The Crow Legislature on Tuesday voted 13-1 to approve a deal with Cloud Peak Energy to develop the estimated 1.2 billion tons of coal on the tribe's Montana reservation.
Billings Gazette; 1/16/2013

Flathead Irrigation Board vote could affect tribes' water compact with Montana
The Flathead Joint Board of Control will hold three informational meetings for irrigators on the proposed Flathead Indian Irrigation Project Water Use Agreement, the approval or denial of which may affect the water pact between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the state of Montana and the federal government that the Legislature is expected to vote on this session.
Missoulian; 1/18/2013

Idle No More rally in Edmonton draws 100 participants
Dancers from tribes in Alberta, neighboring provinces, and from as far away as California, participated in an Idle No More rally at the Edmonton Mall on Sunday.
Edmonton Journal; 1/14/2013


Report: Soot pollution does more damage than previously thought
A new study published online by The Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres said the tiny black particles released into the atmosphere by burning fuels are more of a driver of climate change than previously thought.
New York Times; 1/16/2013

EPA finds toxic releases in the U.S., Utah up
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's latest Toxics Release Inventory found that such releases are on the rise across the United States, including in Utah, where Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon mining operations retained its second place ranking in the nation for overall releases.
Salt Lake Tribune; 1/17/2013

Wolf numbers in Yellowstone Park down 25 percent
Natural deaths, conflicts with humans and hunting have reduced the number of wolves in Yellowstone National Park to somewhere between 71 and 78, down from 98 reported last year at this time, but still well within recovery goals.
Jackson Hole News & Guide; 1/16/2013

Idaho man mistakes trapped lynx for bobcat, kills it
Lynx are a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, and sightings of the elusive cats are rare in northern Idaho, where one was caught in a trap last month and killed by the trapper, who said he thought it was a bobcat.
Coeur d'Alene Press; 1/18/2013

Hunters meet objective of bison hunt in Wyoming
Wildlife managers in northwest Wyoming sought to reduce the herd of bison in the Jackson Hole herd by 200, and hunters met that objective by the end of the season on Jan. 6.
Denver Post (Jackson Hole News and Guide); 1/14/2013

Public lands
Interior judge rules wildlife groups can challenge Wyoming drilling project
An Interior Board of Land Appeals administrative judge ruled last week that the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and National Wildlife Federation can challenge the Bureau of Land Management's approval of a 48-well coal-bed methane project inside the Atlantic Rim natural gas project in Wyoming based on the land's recreational value.
Casper Star-Tribune; 1/13/2013

BLM releases draft plan for managing lands in western Colorado
The proposed Bureau of Land Management's draft plan for lands in western Colorado lays out four management alternatives for recreation, travel, energy development and wildlife protection for lands in Colorado near Grand Junction, setting off a process that will require public hearings on the proposal.
Denver Post (Grand Junction Sentinel); 1/15/2013

USFS challenges placer mining claims in N. Idaho
A U.S. Department of Interior administrative law judge will hold hearings this week in Orofino on the U.S. Forest Service's challenge of dozens of placer mining claims on the North Fork Clearwater River in northern Idaho.
Idaho Statesman (Lewiston Tribune); 1/14/2013

Group urges USFS to shut regional office, not merge Wyo., Idaho forests
The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance sent a letter last week to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, asking that the agency reconsider closing the regional office in Ogden, Utah, to save money rather than proceed with a proposal to merge the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming with the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Idaho.
Jackson Hole Daily; 1/15/2013

Company defends paying royalties on domestic price for exported coal
In a document filed in a lawsuit, Ambre Energy admitted that it created an in-house affiliate for the specific purpose of allowing the company to pay royalties on coal produced in Wyoming and Montana based on the domestic price, but then selling the coal for $85 more a ton overseas, a practice Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski are investigating.
Portland Oregonian; 1/17/2013

Groups file lawsuit in Montana to force USFWS action on whitebark pine
Montana-based The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and WildWest Institute filed a lawsuit in Missoula on Tuesday against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its inaction on reviewing the status of whitebark pine, which was found by the agency in 2011 to warrant protection, but was precluded from being listed due to concerns about other, higher-priority species.
Missoulian; 1/17/2013

Public lands
Report: Colorado's record wildfire season caused $538 million in losses
The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control's preliminary report said that fire departments across the state reported a total of 4,167 wildland fires in 2012 that killed six civilians, destroyed more than 648 structures, scorched nearly 385,000 acres and racked up at least $538 million in property losses.
Denver Post; 1/18/2013

Real estate brokers plan new ski area in Colorado
Tom Chapman and Ron Curry are expected to announce their plans to develop a new ski area adjacent to the Telluride Ski Area in Colorado on 103 mining claims they own.
Denver Post; 1/18/2013


Megaloads make travel on Montana's rural highways a slow go
To provide equipment and infrastructure necessary for Montana's oil boom, the Big Sky State's rural highways are crawling with megaloads, so many that the state Department of Transportation Motor Carrier Division is asking the state Legislature to increase funding for its enforcement division--and after a recent encounter with a megaload near Roundup, that additional enforcement is sorely needed. A column by Roundup resident Wendy Beye for High Country News' Writers on the Range.
Missoula Independent (High Country News); 1/17/2013

President Obama's plan to reduce firearm deaths deserves Utah's support
There is nothing in President Obama's proposal to reduce firearm deaths across the nation that law-abiding Utahns cannot support, and for politicians in the state who like to foment anger toward the federal government, they need to look elsewhere.
Salt Lake Tribune; 1/17/2013

The West could use a little disaster aid, too
Last year's wildfire season wreaked havoc on Colorado's watersheds, which is why U.S. Sens. Bennet and Mark Udall pressed for $125 million in Emergency Watershed Protection money, $20 million of which would be allocated to the Centennial State, to be included in the disaster relief bill for Hurricane Sandy victims, but that measure was not included in the bill approved by the U.S. House on Tuesday, and the Senate should make sure it's added to the Hurricane Sandy bill before that chamber votes on it.
Denver Post; 1/18/2013

Concept of energy independence ignores realities of development
The natural gas boom, as well as the nation's bump in oil production has energy companies and politicians in the United States exclaiming that the nation is teetering on the cusp of energy independence, but the reality is that the drilling methods used to tap into the gas and oil resources are consuming mass quantities of water in Wyoming and other states, a situation that should be dealt with immediately. A guest column by John Fenton, the Chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council.; 1/16/2013

Federal government needs to help coal producers, not further hinder them
Coal is still an important piece of the United States' energy picture, even though production levels have fallen, and the federal government's investigation into whether producers are paying their fair share of taxes is ill-timed and unneeded--just ask the governors of Wyoming and Montana, two of the nation's top coal-producing states.
Casper Star-Tribune; 1/15/2013

U.S. needs moratorium on hydraulic fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing is a drilling method that has allowed the United States to tap into a bounty of natural gas, but until more is known about this method that uses copious amounts of water mixed with chemicals and sand pumped underground at high pressure to crack open rock formations, the nation should impose a moratorium on it.
Salt Lake Tribune; 1/14/2013


Utah congressman applauds Salazar's decision to leave Interior
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's decision to retire from the post the end of March was met with accolades from environmental groups for his accomplishments, but Utah U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop said he was happy Salazar was leaving and he hoped that the position would be filled with a Westerner who had a good understanding about multiple use of federal lands.
Salt Lake Tribune; 1/17/2013

Montana senator's bill that allows VA to hire drivers for veterans becomes law
A measure introduced by Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester that allows the Veterans Administration to hire drivers to take veterans to appointments is now law.
Ravalli Republic; 1/15/2013


Three gun-related bills introduced by GOP legislators in Colorado
Republican legislators in Colorado have introduced three gun-related bills this legislative session, including one from Colorado Springs Sen. Kent Lambert that would require businesses to allow people with permits to carry concealed weapons into their establishments or else provide one security officer for every 50 customers.
Denver Post; 1/16/2013

Idaho House, Senate appoint legislators to deal with gun bills
To avoid a flood of redundant legislation, Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke has asked Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale, who helped pass the state's concealed carry bill in 1990, to be the point person for all gun-related legislation in that chamber, and Sen. Marv Hagedorn is leading a similar effort in the Senate.
Idaho Statesman; 1/18/2013

Wyoming Senate panel OKs bill on energy curriculum in schools
The Wyoming Senate Appropriations Committee passed legislation along to the full Senate that would require a private-public partnership to develop an energy and natural resource literacy program for middle schools in the state that includes a $75,000 consulting fee for industry representatives who help develop the curriculum.
Casper Star-Tribune; 1/17/2013

Bill to keep kids in school until age 18 passes first vote in Wyoming Senate
Senate File 96, sponsored by Sen. Chris Rothfuss would require students in Wyoming to remain in school until age 18, survived a voice vote in the Wyoming Senate on Thursday, and will up for a second reading in the Senate today.
Casper Star-Tribune; 1/18/2013


NEB hearing on Northern Gateway Pipeline in B.C. draws protesters
At the first National Energy Board public hearing in Vancouver, B.C., on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline that would carry oilsands from Alberta to a port on the B.C. coast, hundreds of protesters representing First Nation, environmental and other groups rallied outside the meeting room.
Calgary Herald (Vancouver Sun); 1/15/2013

Russian company makes bid to wholly own uranium assets in Wyoming
The Russian company that owns a controlling interest in Toronto-based Uranium One, which has uranium projects in Wyoming, is completing a deal to buy the remaining interest in Uranium One, but JSC Atomredmetzoloto, or ARMZ, took steps to assure Wyoming's federal lawmakers that no uranium produced in Wyoming will be exported to Russia.
Casper Star-Tribune; 1/16/2013

Developer to try again on Montana wind project near Anaconda
After Congress extended for one year the federal wind-tax production credit, Montana-based Exergy Integrated Systems will again put pencil to paper to make its proposed wind project on the C Hill in Anaconda cost competitive.
Montana Standard; 1/18/2013

Vestas to add workers in Colorado to fill new wind-tower contracts
Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems will hold job fairs in Pueblo on Friday and Colorado Springs on Saturday to hire workers for its Pueblo plant in Colorado to help fill orders from two companies for wind towers.
Denver Post; 1/17/2013

Production of palladium, platinum at Montana mine fell in 2012
Stillwater Mining reported that, although production levels of platinum and palladium at the Montana mine was lower in 2012 than in 2011, production still outpaced estimates for last year, and with planned expansions, production should rise in 2013.
Billings Gazette; 1/16/2013

Utah company offers high-speed memory systems to small companies
Cottonwood Heights-based Fusion-io will put the online power Facebook and Apple have in the hands of small Web-based companies with its new memory accelerator card and software solution that hits the market today.
Salt Lake Tribune; 1/16/2013

ConocoPhillips sells some oil assets in Montana, N.D. to Denbury
Texas-based Denbury Resources Inc. is buying Approximately 86,000 acres of ConocoPhillips' Cedar Creek Anticline properties in southwestern North Dakota and eastern Montana.
Billings Gazette (AP); 1/15/2013

Boeing buys building in Utah, will add 100 manufacturing jobs
Commercial aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. purchased a building in West Jordan, where it will make parts for the 787-9 Dreamliner jet, with plans to open that Utah plant by the end of 2014.
Salt Lake Tribune; 1/12/2013

Trailer manufacturer now hiring at new plant in Montana
Aluminum Company of Maine Inc. is now hiring welders and general laborers for its new plant in Bonner, with plans to hire 60 workers to begin production on Feb. 4 at the Montana plant.
Missoulian; 1/17/2013

Beyond the region

Groups in Pacific Northwest press for laws to protect wolves
Concerned about wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, 25 wildlife conservation groups in Washington, Oregon and California have created the Pacific Wolf Coalition to prevent the removal of federal endangered species protection for wolves in those states.
San Francisco Chronicle; 1/14/2013

Shareholders of Bakken oil producer urge end to flaring of natural gas
In North Dakota's Bakken oil fields, enough natural gas is flared off each day to heat half a million homes, and a shareholder group of Cenovus Energy, one of the operators in the Bakken, has filed a resolution asking that the company stop wasteful flaring. Editor's note: This article has an aerial night-time photo of lights from the Bakken oil fields.; 1/15/2013

Walmart launches 10-year plan to buy more American-made goods
Apple, General Electric and Brooks Brothers are all working to make more products in the United States, and on Tuesday, Walmart announced it would offer its suppliers an incentive to make their goods in the U.S.
New York Times; 1/16/2013

Washington state base finalist for next-generation air tankers
Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington state, Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma and McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas were named last week by the U.S. Air Force as the final candidates to house the next generation of air tankers. Spokane Spokesman-Review; 1/18/2013

Texas landowner says EPA backed down on water contamination case
A homeowner in a Fort Worth subdivision said that the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that drilling operations contaminated his drinking water well, but after the drilling company threatened to end its participation in a national study on hydraulic fracturing, the EPA backed away from that finding, although documents obtained by the Associated Press confirm the link between the drilling operations and the water contamination.
Deseret News (AP); 1/18/2013

In depth

Groups urge Montana to hold hearings in cities affected by coal train traffic
The Montana Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources and Conservation are holding three meetings this week in Eastern Montana on the proposed Otter Creek Mine, but 17 environmental groups are urging that, since the coal will be exported, that hearings also be held in Helena, Bozeman, Billings and Missoula, through which coal trains will pass.
Billings Gazette (AP); 1/15/2013

MEIC report rebuts findings of Montana coal study
On Tuesday, the Montana Environmental Information Center published its promised rebuttal of the University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research's report on development of the Otter Creek coal tracts that questioned the BBER's estimate of jobs produced, among other details.
Missoulian; 1/16/2013

Oregon senator seeks information on coal royalties, export plans
In an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said his inquiry into the nation's coal business involves two issues: Are coal producers paying the correct amount of royalties on the coal they pull from public lands, and should the nation be exporting coal to Asia. The article contains 10 facts about coal production in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.; 1/15/2013

Gov. Inslee wants comprehensive review of coal-export plan
In his first press conference as governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee said that he wanted the review of a plan to ship coal by rail through Washington state for export from ports on the state's coast to include a review of all communities through which coal trains would travel.
Spokane Spokesman-Review; 1/18/2013

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"I would call it a slippery slope to the point where we're no longer honoring the commitment to the philosophy that the polluter pays. If we're not getting what we should be getting to clean up these wells, then we need to ensure that we do. Otherwise our laws mean nothing."

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux provides a preview of coming book attractions for 2016


Mountain West Perspectives
The TransPacific Partnership could affect Rocky Mountain States' local measures


Mountain West Voices
Hear weekly stories from the Rocky Mountain West as gathered by Clay Scott
Other Highlights

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West

at the

The University of Montana